Is it possible to have infinite economic growth on a finite planet? This question has sparked a great deal of inquiry across the social sciences. Some argue that we need to slow or even end economic growth to prevent environmental catastrophe. Others argue that market forces, especially changing prices and improved technology, will ensure that growth can continue unabated without significant negative consequences. Still others argue that government intervention is necessary to limit negative consequences of economic progress, but that effective interventions are still compatible with sustained economic growth.
In this class, we will explore the insights that economics has to offer on this important question. We will start by considering the importance of finite inputs used in production, including fossil fuels, minerals, land, water and food, among others. Then, we will consider whether undesirable byproducts of economic growth will prevent sustained growth. This second part of class will place a lot of emphasis on climate change, but we will also discuss other forms of environmental degradation. Throughout the class, we will pay special attention to the role that government intervention can or cannot play in promoting sustainable economic growth. This class will reinforce core economic concepts taught in introductory microeconomics and introductory macroeconomics.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
midterms exams, final exam, problem sets, short writing assignments, class participation
ECON 110 and ECON 120
potential or declared social science majors
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENVI Environmental Policy
POEC Comparative POEC/Public Policy Courses